Heard of walking 10,000 steps a day for a healthy heart? Well, you may not even need to achieve that threshold for preventing certain heart diseases. A new study has found that climbing more than five flights of stairs daily could slash the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
The team that evaluated the relationship between intensity of stair climbing and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) found that taking more than five flights of stairs (climbing approximately 50 steps) daily could cut down the risk by 20%. The findings were published in the journal Atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is a condition in which arteries in the heart get clogged up with fats or cholesterol, called plaques, which could potentially trigger a heart attack. In the U.S. 75% of heart attacks occur from plaque rupture.
Researchers of the latest study analyzed data from 458,860 adult participants of the UK Biobank. Using surveys, they collected information about the participants’ stair climbing, sociodemographic and lifestyle factors at the beginning of the study and also after five years. The participants were followed up for an average of 12.5 years.
“Climbing more than five flights of stairs (approx. 50 steps) daily was associated with a lower risk of ASCVD types independent of disease susceptibility. Participants who stopped stair climbing between the baseline and resurvey had a higher risk of ASCVD compared with those who never climbed stairs,” the researchers wrote in the study.
The findings suggest that climbing more stairs reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly in less susceptible people. Researchers recommend stair climbing as a low-cost, accessible physical activity that can be incorporated into daily routine. They hope the more susceptible group could also “effectively offset” the risk by adopting the habit.
“Short bursts of high-intensity stair climbing are a time-efficient way to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and lipid profile, especially among those unable to achieve the current physical activity recommendations. These findings highlight the potential advantages of stair climbing as a primary preventive measure for ASCVD in the general population,” co-corresponding author Dr. Lu Qi, from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in Louisiana, said in a news release.
“This study provides novel evidence for the protective effects of stair climbing on the risk of ASCVD, particularly for individuals with multiple ASCVD risk factors,” Qi added.